I moved to Okinawa 6 weeks after my husband arrived on the island. My delay was because our dog, Gus, was still under state-side quarantine. The quarantine simply meant that we were in a 6-month waiting period from his special rabies test to clear before he could move to Japan. However, as we were preparing to move, my father became very ill, so Gus’s quarantine ended up being a gift from God because it enabled me to be with my dad through his last months here on Earth. Because our moving situation was so unique, and because our family dynamic is unique (older/no kids), I have been hesitant to share moving tips. That being stated, I have basic knowledge of moving, and I have my own personal experience, so I plan to share a little now with hopes that my friend Allie comes through with a better, more comprehensive blog post. She is a beautiful writer, and she does a fantastic job in clarifying processes by breaking it down into simple steps.
My husband flew from Texas to Okinawa on July 7th. He was picked up by his sponsor, and they went straight to the Q. The Q is like the dorms for Marines. They were both geo-bachelors at the time, so they were a good match for one another. (Geo-bachelor means that the service member is married, but the spouse does not live with them.) My guy would be a geo-bachelor until my arrival on the island on August 31st. When my husband arrived to the Q, all of his basic needs were met. He had coffee and sandwich food. What else does a Marine need? His shipment of shakes was on the way and would arrive soon. His sponsor made sure that his room had a microwave, a coffee maker, filters, plates, cups, and silverware. Specific cleaning supplies were not high on my Marine’s wish-list, but if you are moving into the Q, and you have particular cleaning supplies that you like and use consistently, ask your sponsor to have them in your room. You can paypal or venmo money to buy what you need to be in your room upon your arrival.
If you are arriving on the island with your family, your sponsor will set up temporary lodging. Shogun Inn, on Kadena, has pet friendly rooms. https://kadenafss.com/shogun-inn/ The Westpac Lodge on Camp Foster does not have pet rooms. https://www.mccsokinawa.com/westpac_lodge/ Then, there is the Inn at Camp Courtney https://www.mccsokinawa.com/courtney_lodge/#tab1 and the Inn at Camp Hansen https://www.mccsokinawa.com/hansen_lodge/#tab1. The advantage to Kadena’s lodging is the proximity to the commissary and the exchange. Camp Foster’s lodging is right next door to a restaurant and is on the same base as vehicle registration (Vehicle Registration (marines.mil)) and IPAC (IPAC (marines.mil)). We didn’t need temporary lodging because we arrived at separate times, and by the time I arrived, we had a house.
One of the first things that my guy and his sponsor did was get my husband a Japanese phone. We put our Verizon numbers on hold by submitting military orders because we are choosing to stay in the contract; we want to keep our phone numbers for when we return back to the states. I have my US cell phone turned on and off when I travel back to the states because I when I go home, it is for weeks or months at a time. If you are still stateside, and you are trying to call to Japan, this may help.
Calling a Japanese Cellphone from the US
For a 090 Prefix: Dial 011-81-90-[last 8 digits of cellphone #]. For a 080 Prefix: Dial 011-81-80-[last 8 digits of cellphone #].
Calling a DSN line from the US
- Dial 81-98-970-XXXX
- Dial 81-98-971-XXXX
- Dial 81-98-954-XXXX
- Dial 81-98-969-XXXX
- 637-XXXX or 636-XXXX or 625-XXXX
- Dial 81-98-911-5111, 81-98-911-5112, or 81-98-970-5555, wait for the dial tone and then dial the 7 digit MCBB telephone number
The next thing my husband needed was a car. He ended up buying his car from the Marine he was replacing. It was the crappiest car on the island, but it suited his needs and allowed us some time to figure out what we wanted in our next vehicle purchase. His $500 car didn’t last the whole tour on Japan, but it was only $500, and it ran. Because my Marine had identified a car, his sponsor did not need to help him with finding one. There are a few options with purchasing a car, and we have done all of them. First, you can buy from someone you know. In this case, my husband bought a car from his work predecessor. Second, you can buy a car from one of the dealerships. My car came from Johnny’s Car Lot near Camp Foster. BC Motor’s is also very popular. The dealerships’ salespeople speak English, have many cars to choose from, offer limited warranties, and make the buying process easy. The other option is buying from one of the Okinawa sales pages on Facebook. When my husband’s $500 POS was about dead, we found another car on FB, and we junked his car right after we bought the replacement. I felt very comfortable buying off the FB group because it’s standard process around here. This link will provide more information on how to get your license so you can drive in Japan. (Note, driving on the “other” side of the road is not as hard as you think because everyone drives so slowly.) Okinawa Driving (marines.mil)
As it got close to the time of my arrival, my husband found us a house off base. There wasn’t housing for our rank on base, so we were given the option to live off base. Unlike most duty stations, where you can decide on your own, in Okinawa, for Marines (not sure about the other services), if there is housing for your rank, you HAVE to live on base. You do not have the choice. I know people who have lived on base for the required year, and then gotten a letter to move into town. I know people who lived in town because there wasn’t housing when they arrived, and as soon as it became available, they moved on base. There are pros and cons to each living situation, and maybe someday, I’ll share my observations of both. This flow chart will help you through the housing process. Make sure your sponsor is assisting you with housing. It is his/her responsibility. If you are not being supported by your sponsor, contact the command’s executive officer or sergeant major immediately. Sponsorship is a no-fail mission in IIIMEF and the commands genuinely want you to have as smooth a transition as possible. Port-to-Final Residence Flowchart.pdf (mccsokinawa.com)
Once we knew where we were living, we could have our household goods delivery set up. It is my understanding that the service member must do this. Unfortunately, the spouse can’t set it up – even with a power of attorney. Because I didn’t move when my husband arrived on the island, he set up delivery, had our house fairly squared away, and he even separated my workout gear from regular clothes in the dresser. It was such a gift to move straight into a house with all of my belongings after the strain of going through my father’s last days, ensuring that his will was updated, and then the whole process of the funeral and final respects. My mind was fried, and my heart was heavy. Moving to the other side of the world is challenging no matter what. Doing it immediately after heart-break was a whole other level of pain. I wouldn’t necessarily say that moving at separate times is the best case scenario for all families, but it worked very well for us. By the time I got to the island, my husband had a car, a phone, a house, and he knew what he was doing at work. He was over his jet-lag and over the stress of moving. He managed the process of moving at his own pace without 50,000 questions from me. By doing so, it allowed for my move to be a smoother one. All I had to do was worry about getting me and the dog across the big ocean and to another country. I’ll share more about our travels in another post. This one is long enough…
Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll write about Gus, and my experience moving my pet. In the coming weeks, I will share what I have observed about moving in a Covid environment. Join me next Monday for more tips, and feel free to share this with anyone who is moving and may need the help.